ROME — Giorgio Albertazzi, the lionlike actor and director who was a leading light of the Italian stage for more than six decades but is best known to global French film lovers for playing the seducer with an Italian accent simply called X in Alain Resnais’ 1961 now classic “Last Year at Marienbad,” died Saturday in his native Tuscany.
He was 92.
The son of a bricklayer, Albertazzi was born in Fiesole, near Florence, where he studied acting and made his stage debut in 1949 with a small part in Shakespeare’s “The Tragedy of Troilus and Cressida,” directed by Luchino Visconti. He broke out on the international theatre scene in 1964 playing the lead in “Hamlet” at London’s The Old Vic Theatre directed by Franco Zeffirelli, one of his many Shakespearean roles over the years.
More recently Albertazzi toured internationally playing the emperor in the stage adaptation of Marguerite Yourcenar’s “Memories of Hadrian,” directed by Maurizio Scaparro, which ran for more than one thousand performances after bowing in 1989.
Albertazzi, who first played Hadrian when he was 66, often said he felt a particularly close connection to this role, especially as it related to the process of growing old
“Doing it, I also speak of myself,” Albertazzi told Rome daily Il Messaggero when he was 90. “After all, I feel — a lot — the end of beauty that is consumed, that runs through the text, that seizes the moment in which the harmony of body and mind breaks and enters in conflict.” “While trying to keep myself out of it, I think about all the people I saw ageing, and the loss of youth which I loved so much.”
Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi hailed Albertazzi as a “great personality of our culture.” President Sergio Mattarella described him as a “maestro to generations” of directors and actors.
Besides being a protagonist of the Italian theatre scene Albertazzi was also among its outspoken critics.
“Theater based on a well-written (local) play has been virtually dead around here for 20 years,” he lamented to Variety in a 2005 interview, two years after being appointed artistic director of Rome’s Teatro di Roma, the Eternal City’s principal playhouse which includes the innovative Teatro India outpost.
That didn’t keep Albertazzi from working in Italy well into his 90’s in a wide range of capacities.
In 2006, aged 83, he performed the 26th canto of Dante’s “The Divine Comedy,” also known as the Ulysses canto, during the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics held in Turin.
In 2009 Albertazzi played the lead in the play by Sophocles “Oedipus at Colonus,” directed by prominent Polish film and theatre director Krzystof Zanussi, which was performed in the ancient greek theatre in Siracusa, Sicily.
In 2014, aged 91, he was a contestant on the Italian version “Dancing With the Stars,” on pubcaster Rai’s Rai 1 flagship station, becoming the global hit TV reality show’s oldest star anywhere around the world.
And in 2015 he played Shylock in “The Merchant of Venice” at Rome’s Teatro Ghione.
“He was the greatest Italian actor,” said Gigi Proietti who directed Albertazzi in “Falstaff.” “The public knew that very well, and he, too, was conscious of having the task of being the last of the greats [of the 900’s]. But always with a desire to experiment.”
Albertazzi is survived by his wife Pia de’ Tolomei.